I just ran across this image on Facebook and wanted to share here.
I just ran across this image on Facebook and wanted to share here.
While being a part of the Church of God in Christ for many years, I often wondered if I was in a cult. Please hear this..NOT ALL COGIC ASSEMBLIES ARE CULTS. I just happened to belong to two that were controlling, manipulative, and abusive. From the pulpit, we were told that leaving would bring nothing good. One group taught that everyone else was going to hell. The other group taught that all churches were the same and we’d just encounter the same problems wherever we went. Essentially, I was told that I needed to get a thicker skin. Leaving was not a good answer.
Once I left COGIC for the Word of Faith teaching church, I thought I had found freedom. I and many other ex-COGICs likened our time in COGIC to being in a war. We often shared our “battle” stories. We were brutally honest about the leadership and even talked down about the people who were still in that system. We had no love.
But boy did we talk about being free! I was one to always say “COGIC beat me down with their rules and regulations, but now I am in Christ and in him there is no condemnation to those that love him and are called according to his purpose.” My favorite cliche!
Little did I know that although I was out of the cult-like group, I still had the cult-like behavior within me. It reminds me of the saying, you can take the girl out the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the girl.
Many think of the Jim Jones’ and David Koresh’s of the world when you mention the word “cult.” I would consider these groups to be the extreme cases. A cult (or cult-like group) can be very subtle.
Cults have a closed boundary. You are either in or you’re out. A cult will build a protective barrier around their group and view outsiders as the enemy. Sadly, those on the inside know exactly what is going on. They know that the leader is unstable and a lot of what is told to them does not make sense. The insiders grumble about the leadership or discuss ways the leadership is failing or can be improved. However, when confronted by an outsider the story drastically changes. Outsiders are given the normal pithy excuse about how no one is perfect or how their leader has a “good heart” or “good intentions.”
Not everyone attending a cult-like group is part of the cult. The selection process is very detailed and often goes unspoken.
One must show an interest in the leader’s vision. They must show that they are willing to exchange their goals for the goals of the leader. The individual needs to become available to the leaders. This availability could be volunteering to cook for an event to having your children participate in the group’s activities. The individuals who do not volunteer or participate in events are often seen as “non-committed” or are not really serious about the vision. In some organizations, these people are seen as not being serious about “kingdom building.”
To get visitors to be a part of the group, cults groom individuals to be love bombers. They understand that people have a need for belonging because they, themselves, struggle with acceptance. The love bombers will approach individuals that appear to be “like” them and attempt to form a bond. The love-bomber will shower the visitor or new member with attention such as going out to lunch, meeting up for coffee, or by simply calling them on the phone to see how they are doing.
My confession: I was a love-bomber. Although I had not heard the term love-bomber until after I left the word of faith movement, I purposely introduced myself to women who I thought were my age. I wanted them to join us. I encouraged them to attend events for women. If they could sing, I encouraged them to join the choir. I knew, whether consciously or unconsciously, it was my responsibility as a member to make the newcomer feel comfortable and “at home” and “needed.” And, I was praised for my “transparency.”
Once someone is participating in the group, the real matriculating begins. The leader teaches his belief system to the members. The members then reinforce the teaching through personal interactions with the newbies. In the word of faith movement, scripture is supported by words from the leader. Week after week, the leader would instruct us to “write this down” and this would often be followed or preceded by the phrase “God told me tell you…” For example, when we felt that someone was speaking negativity we’d correct them saying something like “We have to speak those things that be now as though they were and pastor has taught us that we are the sum total of everything we’ve believed or said so watch what you say.”
These snippets eventually became the group’s second language. The leader is often referred to in many conversations. His word pretty much had the same authority as scripture.
Sometimes, a bold leader will tell you something he knows your common sense is going to reject. They will support their nonsensical babble with phrases such as “you think you know everything.” In my situation we were sarcastically called “Mr. and Mrs. Smarty” whenever teaching was in direct opposition to scripture.
Scripture clearly tells us we are to not be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. In some cults, systematic brainwashing is vital to having the members think like the leaders. Subtle techniques from how you respond to a greeting to how you speak are taught by the leader and reinforced by dedicated members. For example, when asked how you’re doing, a new member (or visitor) would learn the proper response is “blessed and highly favored.” Any responses with negative connotations are frowned upon.
What saddened me about this and make forming relationships hard in this group, was this behavior modification created an environment where reality is not of any importance. Relationships were superficial. Individuals can be in the midst of a crisis, but they will faithfully respond “I’m blessed and highly favored.” This created an environment of fear and pride.
Another example of behavior modification is how members were expected to “praise” the Lord. Upon the leader proclaiming “Give God some praise!” or any statements of that sort, some members would start clapping their hands with statements of thanksgiving and praise. The leader can become irritated with the clapping. He will tell the group that God does not need their applause. The leader insults the intelligence of the members by stating they do not understand simply instructions. Moving forward, some members will continue to clap their hands while others remain submissive to the leaders desires and only raise their hands as they were told to do. I was one who was submissive and stopped clapping; not out of love and obedience, but fear. I also looked at individuals who clapped as rebellious and unwilling to “be like us.”
Sometime just sitting in your seat is not enough. There are leaders that insist you look at them. If enough people are not looking at them, they can become self-centered and demand that everyone lift their heads and look at him. This is then followed by insults that their inability to pay attention is why you have problems and why you’re not blessed.
Some cults need members to be dedicated to their cause (or vision) often to the detriment to the members’ individual goals. Some groups have the members so busy supporting the vision of a leader that they don’t have enough time for family, friends, or non-ministry activities. Some parents do not allow their children to participate in school activities or sports because they can’t miss any services. Members had the mindset that they had to be “in the building” whenever the doors were open. Some groups have the members doing so much they don’t have time to stop and think. I remember having to be in “church” services every night for a week (not getting home until close to midnight) resulting in being unable to stay awake in school. There was no allotted time for homework. Everything was centered around church. When parents voiced concerns about the children not having time to do homework, the leader allowed homework to be done in the church basement. This was short-lived as the leader eventually realized that half of the congregation consisted of youth and teens. His ego was bruised because he didn’t have the “regular” number of people focused on him. Homework during service was banned.
Members are asked to use their talent and abilities within the four walls, leaving members too exhausted to do anything else. In the meantime, the vision of one person is being fulfilled while the others are placed within the emotional pyramid; forgoing continued education or starting a business. If someone has a desire to serve the community or even involve the members in the group, they must get approval from the leaders. Their vision or future endeavors is at the discretion of one man. This ought not to be.
How many of you have ever sat in a meeting where the leader or speaker asked you to turn to your neighbor, high-five 3 people, or even simply to stand and stretch? These are examples of the leader confirming that he has the ability to control you on some level. Some people just give out these instructions because that is what they see others doing. Leaders will test the loyalty of their followers by stating they will receive a blessing is “five people will run around this place.” Of course more than five people would accept this task because they all want that blessing or the want to be seen as a loyal member. A very popular, and despicable, event that is taking in places in many groups is members placing money at the feet or in the hands of a leader while they are “preaching”. This group-thinking has convinced people that if they give money directly to the leader, God will give them money. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Yes we are new creatures in Christ Jesus, but if you are spending a majority of your time working for the a ministry compared to the time you spend with your family, you may be in a cult-like group or have a cult-like mentality.
Take some time and examine your motives. Why are you doing the things you do? Do you do these things because you feel you need to work your way into God’s grace? Do you look to man for your “promotion” for a ministry leader position? Do you do more for your leader than you do for your spouse? Are you single and too busy working in the ministry that you’ve not had time to date or cultivate relationships outside the ministry?
These are important questions that can show you who your serving.
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